Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Zalman Shoval: Revival of the war on terror

by Zalman Shoval

"Obama faulted in terror fight, new poll finds," The New York Times declared in one of its headlines last week. This conclusion was based on a survey conducted by the newspaper, which found that for the first time in his presidency, the majority of Americans disapprove of U.S. President Barack Obama's policies on terrorism, and given a choice the American public prefers the Republicans' policies on the issue rather than those of the Democrats. 

This sentiment may have a serious affect on the midterm elections for Congress, scheduled to take place in November.

On the one hand, this position in unfair, since it was during Obama's first term in office that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed. On the other hand, Obama cannot distance himself from his decision to end the war on terror, as declared by his predecessor George W. Bush.

This "war" has been renewed, but as the American president has stated, it will focus primarily on the Islamic State group. It seems that now, just as before, Obama has failed to fully understand the radical Islamist nature of all Arab and Muslim elements that subscribe to terrorism.

In a 1989 essay, historian and political scientist Francis Fukuyama claimed that the end of the Cold War had spelled the end of the clashes between various ideologies and cultures, and that it ushered in a new era in which all nations and their leaders will subscribe to liberal and democratic values. 

Few dared argue with this optimistic theory at the time, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was quick to conclude that with the demise of the communist threat, the strategic alliance between the United States and Israel was no longer an absolute must. 

Some had disagreed with Fukuyama's rosy prediction, but we were the minority. At the time, I was among those who warned that the potential threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism may one day make all of us miss the Cold War.

In his new book, "Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy," Fukuyama himself admits that the future of liberal democracy is ambiguous, but he fails to directly link the democratic West's theoretical decline with the external threat posed by Islam. 

Henry Kissinger, however, offers a more realistic worldview, and in his latest book, "World Order," he notes that the Islamist world negates the values at the very heart of Western society and culture, and labels anyone who does not belong to the Muslim nation as an "infidel." Infidels, as everyone knows, must be killed.

The horrors perpetrated by Islamic State have reignited the public and professional debate in the U.S. about the threat of terrorism and its political implications.

Obama hopes he would be able to limit his anti-Islamic State campaign to aerial strikes, but as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey have already said, it is only a matter of time before Washington has to decide on a ground operation. 

Islamic State may dominate the headlines now, but the group is only one of many, albeit more sophisticated and organized than most. The American administration and with it European leaders are somehow still in denial as to the true scope of the terrorist threat, and the fact that the Islamic State's horrific acts, including their signature decapitations, are in fact perpetrated by other jihadist groups.

The view of Hamas is also plagued by duality: It may be officially classified as a terrorist organization, but the West insists on remaining oblivious to Hamas' ideological and theological affiliation with Islamic State, opting instead to subscribe to a skewed view by which Hamas is part of the "absence of solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Another monstrous absurd is the deliberate disregard to the fact that Iran, which is currently urged by the U.S. and its European allies to join the fight against Islamic State, is a major proponent of global terrorism.

Sobering up to reality, much like some wars, can be a gradual process. One can only hope that the U.S. and the rest of the free world come to their senses sooner rather than later; and that following the war -- partial as it may be -- against Islamic State, they would understand that terrorism is as terrorism does. Defeating Islamic terrorism and ensuring democracy has the upper hand mandates a comprehensive and systematic mobilization of all nations in the free world, and first and foremost the United States.

Zalman Shoval


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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